UL Live

By Christina Cavazos

When Oil Horse Brewing Co. first opened its doors in 2016, downtown Longview was a virtual ghost town. There were few businesses open and little foot traffic on a day-to-day basis.However, today, downtown Longview is vibrant and thriving as people flock to the area to enjoy the dozens of local businesses that have opened in the last eight years.

“We wanted to open here to help revitalize downtown and make a change and be a place where people want to go,” Ellen Oglesbee said. “What we originally envisioned and wanted was to create a place where people could just come and hang out.”

Today, Oil Horse remains one of the top “hangout” spots in downtown Longview, but in the last eight years, it’s been joined by many others–both downtown and in other areas of the city. New spaces have given the community areas to gather, share ideas, collaborate, and hang out.

This is a look at 10 of the trendiest hangout hot spots in Longview in 2024.

Oil Horse Brewing Co.

Oil Horse remains a cornerstone in downtown Longview, and owners John and Ellen Oglesbee said they’ve been excited to be part of the revitalization of the heart of the city.

“I grew up with a downtown that was vibrant and had all these fun places. That’s one of the things we wanted for Longview,” Ellen Oglesbee said.

The concept for Oil Horse started years prior to opening when John Oglesbee started brewing at home in his kitchen and later in his garage and even later in another structure he built. Eventually, the couple decided to transform from brewing at home to opening a business.

When they opened their doors downtown in May 2016, they sold out all of their stock in one night. They brewed some more and opened up again for a night in June 2016 when they sold out again. From there, they began to develop a more consistent schedule. What started as Fridays and Saturdays has turned into a brewery that’s now open five nights a week.

What makes Oil Horse unique from other breweries is that its beers are crafted to remove gluten. John Oglesbee is gluten intolerant, and he decided to create beer that was accessible to him and all of those who have a gluten intolerance.

“While that may seem like a terrible thing to some people, gluten as a whole or removing gluten doesn’t change the taste for the quality of the beer. It just allows it to be more accessible to people,” he said.

The names of their beer selection were created to shed light on local history with names like “Big Inch,” “Loblolly,” “Hundred Acres,” and more.

The family-friendly brewery offers many events, such as live music, trivia nights, and Theology on Tap.

903 Billiards

One of Longview’s newest hangout spots, 903 Billiards is bringing an up-scale billiards experience to downtown Longview and offering a premier spot to play a precision sport.

Owned by Jeff and Dawn Goodeman, 903 Billiards opened its doors July 15, 2023, with a goal of being a billiards-focused spot in downtown Longview. Unlike bars that have pool tables, 903 Billiards is focused first and foremost on being a pool hall.

“I’ve been playing pool competitively for 23 or 24 years now. We had a couple of places in town that closed during COVID, so everybody was going to Kilgore to play,” Jeff Goodeman said. “We wanted to bring it back to Longview.”

It was a three-year process to launch the business from the initial concept to finding a location to opening. 903 Billiards is located in the former Landmark Social, which operated as an event venue space. Goodeman said the building had good bones, which streamlined the process of converting it into a pool hall. The couple hung pool table lights and put in pool tables.

When it opened, there was instant business with pool leagues that began playing there. While 903 Billiards has a bar, the focus is on offering a “good, clean place to play pool,” Goodeman said. “It’s family friendly, and children are invited to come in with an adult until 9 p.m.,” he said.

Leagues play Sunday through Thursday, and then Thursday through Saturday there are tournaments. They even offer a junior league for minors. In addition to opening for leagues, 903 Billiards is also available for the general public to come in and try their turn at pool.

Goodeman said he personally enjoys pool because it’s a skill-based sport that poses a different challenge each time.

“The pool table doesn’t discriminate. It’s a skill game,” he said. “A lot of people don’t think of pool as a sport, but if you get into a competitive pool, it really is. You may be playing a tournament for eight hours, and every single time you go to make a shot, you’ve got to have 100% focus.”

As for the future, Dawn Goodeman said they want to expand to have different offerings, perhaps occasional live musicians and perhaps growing into other types of gaming.

Evergreen Coffee & Dessert

Since opening in 2000, Evergreen Coffee and Dessert has helped bring renewed life and energy to Pine Tree and has helped develop a community hub where young residents can gather to study, work, create art, talk, and cultivate ideas.

Evergreen Coffee and Dessert was founded by Seajin Kim and his wife, Stella Park, who owns the neighboring Evergreen Tattoo in the Royal Park Shopping Center. The couple also owns Evergreen Food Factory, which serves Korean fusion fare.

“Our main goal is to bring new experiences to Longview to give people more options,” Kim said.

The couple moved to Longview from New York, where community coffee shops abound. He wanted to bring that vibe to Pine Tree.

Prior to the coffee shop and tattoo shop opening, the Royal Park Shopping Center on Evergreen Street contained mostly vacant buildings.  Since opening, the coffee shop has become one of the trendiest hangout spots in Longview, especially among students who often study and gather with friends for conversation at the coffee shop. The tattoo shop also is bustling. More businesses have followed suit and opened up in Royal Park, leading to revitalization in the area.

At Evergreen, popular coffee favorites include the Horchata Latte and the shop’s signature Tiger Latte. However, Evergreen offers a robust menu that includes teas, frappes, and bubble tea. The bubble tea with boba is among the top sellers on the menu and is one item that sets Evergreen apart from other coffee shops. With many flavors of bubble tea and many flavors of boba, there are endless pairing combinations for patrons.

In addition to drinks, Evergreen also offers many desserts, such as macarons. Most of the desserts are made in-house and prepared fresh daily.

T. Blanco’s

Each weekend and nearly every weeknight, Longview residents drive south to the Lakeport area to dine at T. Blanco’s where the patio, margaritas, and Tex-Mex combine to create an atmosphere that people have loved for more than a decade.

T. Blanco’s opened in 2010 and was purchased by the Maxey family, which also owns Jucy’s, in 2018. Located in Lakeport, T. Blanco’s is known for its Tex-Mex offerings. The restaurant’s menu items are prepared fresh each day, using high-quality ingredients, according to General Manager Jeff Gruppi. Top menu items include the Fried Avocado, Beef Fajitas, and spicy Tacos De La Rosa.

“We have some great recipes, and we have great cooks working in the kitchen,” said Dustin Anthony, a part owner of the restaurant. “They do a good job and are really hands-on every day. We strive to work to do the best we can and just improve on our quality at all times.”

“The atmosphere helps set the restaurant apart from other Tex-Mex options,” Gruppi said.

“We have a great patio. There are not many restaurants like this around. It’s really laid back, and then on top of all that, the food is just really delicious,” he said. “I feel like it sets us apart from anybody in the surrounding area.”

Megan Kiefer, who’s a part owner of the restaurant, agreed that atmosphere is key. It’s family friendly but also has a “happy hour type of vibe,” she said. The atmosphere invites people to stay longer than just their meal.

The bar also features a variety of options with specialty and holiday drinks that rotate. Kiefer said the frozen margarita is her personal favorite. As it does to prepare its food, T. Blanco’s also uses fresh, high-quality ingredients in its mixed drinks, she said.

Shivers Natural Snow

In North Longview, a vintage Airstream, snow cones, picnic tables, and yard games combine to create a communal atmosphere where the community can relax and connect.

At Shivers, owners Chad and Rachael Reeves strive to create an atmosphere where families and friends can often be found gathering at picnic tables or enjoying each other’s company while sitting on picnic blankets.

While the atmosphere has a sense of community, the snow cones themselves are naturally a draw. Shivers signature snow cones feature ice that’s soft as snow and syrups that are made with all-natural, real ingredients.

In the spring, summer and fall, Shivers serves snow cones while in the winter the menu shifts to holiday drinks. All of the items are served from the Shivers food truck, an Airstream that’s located on U.S. 259 near Spindletop Market, formerly known as the Bar K Ranch Store.

On the summer snow menu, popular items include the Honeymoon, which is made with juiced pineapple and cream of coconut, and the Strawnilla, which features a combination of strawberry and vanilla. In the fall, snow cone flavors shift to fall flavors such as The Great Pumpkin, which features pumpkin spice and cinnamon, and Caramel Apple.

In both the summer and fall, the Brown Cow is a popular choice that features cold brew coffee along with homemade sweet cream, whipped cream, caramel drizzle, and chocolate drizzle.

In the wintertime, Shivers shifts to holiday drinks including a variety of hot chocolate flavors. In Texas, it can often be warm even in November and December, so Shivers also offers a frozen version of a few of its popular hot chocolate drinks.

Books & Barrels

Nestled in downtown Longview, Books & Barrels is an indie bookstore that also houses a wine bar and weekly schedule that’s filled with events the community enjoys.

Books & Barrels opened in 2020 as the brainchild of Laura and Chad Nevils and Laura’s mother, Joanna Burrows. Laura Nevils has described herself as an avid reader, but there were limited places to purchase books in the Longview area. She wanted to make that opportunity available to the community and wanted to be part of the revitalization efforts happening downtown.

The store caters to readers of all ages and those interested in a variety of genres. Its selection includes contemporary fiction, nonfiction, and a variety of children’s books.

Meanwhile, the wine bar housed inside promotes drinking local. Wines are available from nearby wineries, such as Enoch’s Stomp and Los Pinos. The store also sells a selection of craft beer, including Oil Horse Brewing Co.

Wine and books make for the perfect pair, and Nevils has played on that concept by created a book club called “Perfect Pair Book Club.” Each month, Books & Barrels chooses a book club pick and pairs it with a specific type of wine. The book club meets the third Thursday of each month for discussion.

The book club is far from the only event Books & Barrels hosts. The bookstore’s robust event calendar includes children’s story time, poetry nights, and open mic nights.

Greenside Beverage Co.

Since opening in 2022, Greenside Beverage Co. has quickly become one of Longview’s prime spots to relax with friends.

Owners Hudson and Bessie Johnson share a lot of interests, and owning their own business was a shared dream. They also both enjoy wine, especially natural wine. Meanwhile, Hudson Johnson also works in real estate investment, and in 2021, he and his business partner invested in a building at the corner of Green Street and Tyler Street in downtown Longview.

“We would come back here and have beers or wine on what would become the patio,” Hudson Johnson said, noting the patio was in disrepair at the time. “We would come back here and dream.”

They worked together to renovate the building, which also houses neighboring businesses like Cace’s Kitchen and Solo Sandwich Co. The renovation process began in November 2021, and Greenside officially opened its doors in August 2022.

Greenside offers a selection of natural wines, which Johnson described as being prepared by simpler or more traditional methods.

“The cool thing about natural wine is it’s grapes fermented into alcohol and then maybe a little bit of sulfite and that’s it,” he said. “The grapes are well-grown. It’s really nothing new; it’s just kind of going back to the older, more traditional methods of winemaking. It’s small wineries, small vineyards–it’s people like us who put themselves into it. There’s not a big machine harvesting the grapes. It’s people out there caring for the grapes.”

In addition to natural wines, Greenside also offers an assortment of beers, including some that are made in house. 

Greenside also offers a variety of occasional events, including live music, yoga, pop-up food experiences, flea markets, and other events.

The Johnsons said one thing they love about their space is that it’s located in the heart of the city, giving them a chance to be part of the downtown revitalization. Supporting local is something they do even in their own travels.

“Everywhere we go, we seek out what’s local. I want to go somewhere where I can experience what that place has to offer, the local culture. In Longview, that’s downtown,” he said. “If you dropped a pin at the courthouse, and you went a mile in any direction, this is what Longview is. It stands out. This is uniquely Longview.”

Café Barron’s

No list of hangout spots in Longview would be complete without Barron’s, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Barron’s was founded in 1972 by Jim and Julia Barron as a bookstore that grew into a boutique and gift shop. In 1995, the couple also opened Café Barron’s to serve upscale cuisine in a modern setting in Longview. Today, the shop and restaurant are operated by the couple’s son, Brandon, and his wife, Lacy.

Located on Loop 281, Café Barron’s features low club seating and sleek décor that exudes the atmosphere of a 1930s jazz club with a modern flare. The restaurant features a full-service bar that is classy, upscale, sophisticated, and ideal for young professionals. Both the restaurant and bar are casual and a space where people feel comfortable dressed up or dressed down.

On the restaurant menu, fan favorites include the ribeye, the hot ’n’ crunchy chicken, and the bison burger. Barron’s uses high quality, fresh ingredients for both its food and drinks, and everything is prepared to order.

Silver Grizzly Espresso

When Silver Grizzly Espresso opened its doors in Longview in 2016, it was with the goal of being a “third-place” space–an area outside of work and home where people can meet together and feel a sense of belonging.

In the last eight years, the downtown coffee shop has become just that to its multitude of patrons who come not just for coffee but also for a space to talk, collaborate, exchange ideas, and “belong.”

The coffee shop was made possible by four business partners–Connor Walters, Vincent Purvis, David Samford, and Vance Freeman–who had different backgrounds but a common thread. All four grew up in and around Longview and wanted to invest in their community.

Silver Grizzly offers high quality, craft coffee. Coffee beans are ethically sourced, and Walters works with individuals he knows who visit farms in other countries, such as Guatemala and Ethiopia, during harvest season.

Silver Grizzly purchases what is known as “green coffee.” It’s the pit of a coffee cherry that starts out green and is turned brown during the roasting process. In 2020, Silver Grizzly opened its own roastery at which it roasts the beans to create its coffee.

While the downtown coffee shop remains
the cornerstone of the business, Silver Grizzly also sells its coffee online and has partnered with other local businesses to offer its product.

At the coffee shop, the most popular drink tends to be lattes paired with one of Silver Grizzly’s house-made syrups. Latte art is often a delight to customers. The coffee shop also occasionally hosts pop-up events, such as latte art competitions and collaborations.

The Bourbon Alley

One of the newer hangout spots in downtown Longview, The Bourbon Alley has quickly built a following with its trendy atmosphere and high-quality craft cocktails.

Owner Christopher Wilks is originally from Longview but had moved away. When his job went fully remote amid the pandemic, he and his husband decided to return home. He said he couldn’t really find a place to get a drink with the exact atmosphere he was seeking, so he decided to build it with his family.

The Bourbon Alley, a speakeasy style bar that blends New Orleans flair with Old Hollywood charm, opened its doors on September 1, 2023. Patrons enter a storefront and are asked for a password to enter the speakeasy.

The Bourbon Alley originally was located behind Big Wood Haus & Home, but the owners quickly realized that it needed more space due to growing popularity. Today, it occupies the entire space at 115 E. Tyler St. though the Big Wood storefront still exists to add to the speakeasy vibe.

“We both mutually decided it would be beneficial for us if we could expand into this extra space which has been a lot of help,” Wilks said.

Cocktails rule the menu, but The Bourbon Alley also has a few signature drinks that patrons love. The Blood Moon, for example, offers a vibrant twist on the classic margarita; meanwhile the Bourbon Alley Sazerac features a bold blend of rye whiskey, absinthe, and bitters.

“I want people to come here and leave with a smile on their faces, like they had an amazing time, and they felt kind of transported to New Orleans or just somewhere else other than Longview,” Wilks said. “As they say in New Orleans, ‘let the good times roll.’ If people come here and have fun, that’s when I feel
like we’ve done a really good job.”